Katherine Sinacore: From UNH to Panama

PhD Candidate Investigates Growth and Water Use of Plantation Trees

Thursday, February 15, 2018
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Credit: Sean Mattson, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Katherine Sinacore, who will graduate this May with a PhD in Natural Resources and Earth System Sciences, conducted research with New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station scientists Dr. Heidi Asbjornsen and Dr. Ted Howard. Learn about why she chose UNH for her graduate studies, what she researched, and what she's gained from her research experience.

Why did you decide to pursue your graduate degree at UNH?

I really liked the interdisciplinary focus of the Natural Resources and Earth Systems Science graduate program that UNH offers. The program allows us to interact with faculty and students from different backgrounds, which enriches the work that we all do.

What was the focus of your research and why?

For the last few years I have been working on a collaborative project looking at how tree species and certain combinations of tree species in plantations affect growth and water use of these trees. This is important because the majority of plantations in Panama are comprised of a nonnative species, teak, that has not only grown poorly, but uses a lot of water. This can be problematic in communities where potable water is limited, especially during the dry season. Our group was excited by the prospect of finding native tree species that could outgrow teak and use less water. I am interested in this work because it can be applied to help communities regulate water flows throughout the year and provide the landowner with an economic opportunity.

What was it like having New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station researchers Dr. Heidi Asbjornsen and Dr. Ted Howard as your mentors?

I have really enjoyed working with Heidi and Ted. They are great mentors and have always challenged me to think beyond my narrow focus. They have also been incredibly supportive of helping me gain the skills I need to pursue my career goals.

What would you tell prospective graduate students about your research experience? What do you feel you gained most from it?

I would say that you can really tailor your research experience to meet your interests and goals. I really wanted to work and live abroad during my dissertation work. Heidi and Ted supported this idea which allowed me to spend nearly three years in Panama. I gained a lot from living abroad. I had to learn to be more adaptable and patient than I generally need to be in New Hampshire. I also gained a greater appreciation for the difficulties rural communities will face in adapting to a changing climate.

What are your plans after graduation?

I'm currently applying to jobs. I'd really like to work at a nonprofit that does international environmental work focused on climate adaptation and community-led conservation.

Lori Wright, NH Agricultural Experiment Station